You know you’re getting old when half the people on the newspaper’s obituary page are younger than you. But Vegas is a rock ‘and’ roll kinda town. We pride ourselves on living fast, dying young and making decent-looking corpses.
“He was just playing his favorite slot machine, drinking a beer and smoking when he keeled over,” a friend once said to me at the funeral of another friend, who had died doing the three things he loved most. He was 52. And in Vegas 50 is the new 70; 60, the new 80.
I know as I grow older I seem to become a little less than human. Frequently I find myself getting lost between here and there — between the gas cap and gas pump, the bed and toilet. And I dawdle a lot, either lost in thought or, yes, totally lost in the cosmos. For example, I often linger too long in the adult diaper section of the grocery store. Unable to move, I’ll stand and ponder if, with all the world’s technology, they’ll be inventing some sexier Depends soon — for both maximum protection and maximum manliness.
The good news is that aging is the most authentic of spiritual journeys, a biological Zen exercise. It constantly keeps you in the here and now, often without a clue as to how you got here, now. And although ancient philosophers instructed us to “know thyself,” we now know it is far better to know thine own glycemic index instead.
Nonetheless, you learn to muddle along at the speed of life. Which now, more often than not, moves in slow motion. As you grow older you devolve into more of a zombie-like hunter-gatherer than anything civilized, always seeking immediate gratification. Food? Mmm, yes! A bowel movement? Oh, happy day! Little else matters.
But even bumbling along thusly, occasionally you find your footing and get lucky. After all, this is Vegas. So recently, while I was on the same Nevada Health Plan as my deceased friend — a beer in hand, cigarette in mouth, a slot machine in front of me — in a Boulder Highway casino that caters to seniors, an older but striking woman sat next to me. Like a geriatric Rapunzel, grayish brown hair flowed sensually down to her waist. We talked some and hit it off. She told me she had been widowed when her husband hit a poker machine jackpot and dropped dead. I said I was a schoolteacher still alive and kicking, barely. She put her hand on my thigh.
“Name’s Jenny,” she said. “Can I give you my phone number?”
“Heck yeah!” I replied, full of beer. “If we hit it off, I’ll buy a shrimp boat and name it after you! I always wanted to know the answer to that Beatles’ question, ‘Will you still feed me when I’m 64?’”
“Sure, I can give you breakfast,” she said. “But if you stay all night, that’ll cost you a bunch extra.”
“Seriously?” I asked, surprised by this suddenly sobering revelation.
“A girl’s gotta make a living, even at my age,” she said.
Chuckling, I was reminded of why people in Vegas age at the same rate as chimpanzees.
“Hey, it could be worse,” she added. “Our pictures could be in tomorrow’s obituaries.”
Oh, happy day!
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.